Why Did Hamas & The Islamic Jihad Launch A War Against Israel | INITIAL OBSERVATIONS | By Avi Melamed – October 7, 2023
Hamas And The Islamic Jihad Organization Launched A War Against Israel
At this stage, I would like to offer some assessments regarding the situation. First, from an immediate military standpoint, the question is whether this is an opening move as part of a broader Iranian scheme for a multi-front war against Israel. As part of its hegemonic vision, Iran is advancing a military plan to eradicate Israel. A central component of the Iranian plan is the creation of a “ring of fire” in three areas bordering Israel – the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria. Today, the Gaza front was activated. We must now pay close attention to the other fronts – Especially Hezbollah in Lebanon. Will they join the war? In addition, we need to closely monitor developments in the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority. And we must keep our finger on the pulse in Israel itself – especially in mixed Arab-Jewish communities and along the seam lines between Jewish and Arab communities.
Why did Hamas initiate the war?
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, is ideologically and militarily committed to the destruction of the State of Israel. The reality that Hamas has created in Gaza for the Palestinians in Gaza has worsened. And with it, the criticism from Palestinians and the Arab world towards Hamas has grown. Over the past year, against a backdrop of a dire socio-economic situation in Gaza, this criticism has translated into open calls by Gaza residents to overthrow Hamas. In light of this reality, Israel significantly eased the entry of tens of thousands of workers from Gaza, thus alleviating their plight. The Israeli policy served Hamas’s interest in calming tensions in Gaza. So why did Hamas initiate a war?
The explanation, in my estimation, lies in a combination of two processes – one internal Palestinian and the other regional.
From the internal Palestinian perspective, Hamas competes with the Palestinian Authority for the leadership of the Palestinians. The core narrative of Hamas is that it protects the Palestinians and that it will lead Palestinians – through armed struggle – to a Palestinian victory over the State of Israel. The Palestinian Authority criticizes Hamas for this approach, arguing Hamas has led Gaza towards devastation and despair. Hamas has faced increased criticism not only for its responsibility for Gaza’s dire reality. But also because, during two violent rounds between Israel and the Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza, Hamas sat on the fence and did not intervene. This criticism has severely damaged Hamas’s image. All of this has put pressure on Hamas.
The Abraham Accords and the rapprochement process between Israel and Saudi Arabia deepen feelings of frustration, disappointment, and despair among the Palestinians, who feel the Arab world has abandoned them. This sentiment has been exacerbated by the fact that Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, openly speaks about an Israeli-Saudi agreement. But he does not condition an agreement upon the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, nor does he condition it on finding a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority and also the head of the Fatah organization (the largest party in the Palestinian Authority), cautiously criticized bin Salman’s position. By launching this war, Hamas made the decision to send a clear message: We will not be sidelined. It is the Palestinians who will dictate the course of events.
The Israeli Response
Israel is in shock. The scenario of the occupation of Israeli settlements was always one of Israel’s worst nightmares. Today, this scenario has come true. Israel’s military defense strategy against the threat from Gaza has failed. This failure will have many and not simple repercussions for Israel in many respects and over time. In the first stage, the war initiated by Hamas, and its achievements, highlights Israel’s dilemma vis a vis the threat from Gaza. Should Israel come to terms with a constant threat that escalates from time to time? Or should Israel act militarily to topple Hamas’s rule? So far, the prevailing approach was that Israel should avoid reoccupying the Gaza Strip. Given the severe outcomes of the attack, the public’s shock and anger, the government’s severe crisis facing widespread public criticism, the fact that Netanyahu’s right-wing government partners openly call for the overthrow of Hamas, and the fact that Netanyahu positions himself as the one who guarantees Israel’s security – there might be a decision to topple Hamas’s rule through military action. The coming days will answer the question of where Israel is heading…
The war could have almost conflicting implications for the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On the one hand, assuming that the Hamas regime does not collapse, Hamas can leverage and maximize its achievement in several ways. Assuming that Hamas is holding Israeli prisoners, it could lead to the release of thousands of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. This will position Hamas as the unrivaled leader of the Palestinians. Hamas will aim to overthrow the Palestinian Authority and take over the West Bank, thus positioning itself as a regional player supported by a regional power – Iran, which has an operational, ideological, and political interest in constantly fueling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This means that the chance for a stable agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, which is already weak, will become even weaker. On the other hand, the war initiated by Hamas, aiming to dictate the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, might produce an outcome that could be counter to Hamas’s and Iran’s interests. It is possible that the war, whatever its consequences, will expedite – not delay or stop – an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel, the USA, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority have a significant interest in neutralizing Hamas and Iran’s achievements. The war initiated by Hamas against Israel on October 7, 2023 is a significant turning point in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in the regional context. We are in the early stages of the shock waves. This is a pivotal moment whose ramifications are regional.
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